Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Jameson Gold Reserve Irish Whiskey

Time for some Irish.  I just felt like it.  Scotch whisky, particularly the aged single malts can be taxing on the brain.  You know you are in the presence of greatness and therefore must make mental notes of the entire tasting experience.  This can be tiring if one is not up to the task. 

Irish whiskey, no matter how old or grand, somehow, makes no demands of you.  To partake in some Irish whiskey is, put simply, a more hedonistic experience.  It's the recess at school time.  It's the summer vacation for the teacher and students or the sabbatical for the professor.  And for us, it's kicking back in your favorite bar with a couple of friends, having a ridiculous conversation about anything.  Irish whiskey is about . . . good times!

Jameson's standard, no-age statement bottling is the best selling Irish whiskey in America.  Pity!  You know why?  Because it is terrible.  Jameson's standard bottling is pretty awful stuff, suitable at best for frat boys determined to do shots after exams in the college social club.  Really, please avoid.  Tastes old, musty and spoiled.

Jameson 12 years is a big step up in quality.  Common enough that you can find it pretty much everywhere, but with a flavor profile that is rather uncommonly good!  Lots of chocolate, hazelnut action mixed with malty notes.  Makes for a nice dram.

Jameson 18 years is the oldest sibling, but not the best.  You're gonna taste Chinese green tea, lemon grass and citrus notes.  Not terrible, but not great.  Matter of fact, not as good as the 12 years. 

And finally, we arrive at the task at hand: evaluating the Jameson Gold Reserve.  Well, what can I tell you?  For starters, this whiskey has no age statement, yet it is priced above the 12 year old and below the 18 year old.  It's not a cheap date.

Browsing the Jameson website you will glean scant more about the age of the whiskies making up Gold Reserve.  The three whiskies making up this blend are described as being of "advanced years" . . .  This is not a problem for me.  I am not hung up on age statements, as they are not necessarily definitive of quality.  A couple of possible reasons why there is no age statement:  (1) the blender has the flexibility to choose whiskies that may vary in age from year to year, yet blended properly achieve the signature flavor profile the blender aims to replicate each year; and (2) it's more cost effective (it gets expensive if you are only using whiskies of a certain age each year).

Nose (undiluted)
Rich, fragrant molasses, almonds and wild flowers.

Palate (undiluted)
Initially buttery followed by a transition to a crisp, fresh body of crunchy peanut brittle, wild honey, English cream and oak.

Finish (undiluted)
Fairly long flavors of mint, Oolong Tea and malt remain.

General Impressions
Excellent Irish whiskey!  Better than the 12 and 18 year olds.  Why?  More complex flavor profile.  The ability of the whiskey to start sweet, transition to a dry, almost crunchy quality is no easy feat.  The master blender is to be applauded for his effort in this regard.  While it shares some flavor similarities with the 12 year old, the Gold Reserve takes those flavors to new heights. 

Price Point
While the price point is high, it is worth the experience.

Peer Review
Compared to other mass produced Irish whiskey bottlings, I would say Jameson Gold Reserve is among the best.  However, the king of Irish whiskies is not dethroned: Redbreast 12 years.


Jason Debly
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  1. You are WAY too harsh on Jameson's standard whiskey, which I find consistently pleasing at an affordable price. The only thing that tastes musty and spoiled to me is whiskey snobbery.

    1. If you like the standard Jameson's, then you must try the higher end products like Gold and the 12 year old.

    2. I think jameson 18 is outstanding, I have spent upwards of 10k on scotch and Irish wiskey and have paid for my education in respect to the distilled arts. I am no expert , but no where near a novice and jameson's 18 y.o. expression gets a bad rap here. Their back barrel is outstanding for the price as well. Yes redbreast 12 is outstanding and far more balanced than the redbreast 15 , but the jameson 18 or the teeling 21 beats out the redbreast somedays. Wiskey or wisky, Irish or scotch, isn't black and white, it is grey. It is subjective to the likes and dislikes of the palate of the individual drinking it. Try em all if you can, but decide for yourself. That is undoubtedly the best advice anyone could ever give or get with regards to scotch or wiskey.

  2. I have to agree that, at least in the price range, the standard Jameson's is quite alright. But from the Select Reserve on it just keeps gets better (still need to try the 18year).

  3. I agree with you about the standard; so much so that I originally eschewed any other Jameson. That is, until I sampled the Gold Reserve. It is in a different league altogether. I have to say that your tasting notes are spot on for me as well. Very good!

    Dave Scott M.

    1. Thanks Dave! And welcome to the blog!

    2. The 12 year is definitely a favorite but then again I also enjoy the basic Tullamore Dew quite a bit as well.